Why Ketogenic Diet Doesn’t “Beat Chemo for Almost All Cancers”

This diet was shared on Facebook, Twitter as a therapy that can “beat chemo for almost all cancers”, and it was entitled by Dr. Thomas Seyfried. This doctor worked in a field called cancer metabolism, rediscovering what Otto Warburg knew 80 years ago. He discovered that many tumors actually rely on glycolysis for their energy. They do that even in the state with oxygen for oxidative phosphorylation, that can make a load of the chemical energy used by cells.

Where Did Dr. Seyfried Went Wrong?

This doctor states that cancer is primarily a metabolic disease. Because of that, he stated next:

“The low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet can replace chemotherapy and radiation for even the deadliest of cancers, said Dr. Thomas Seyfried, a leading cancer researcher, and professor at Boston College.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Seyfried discussed why the ketogenic diet has not been embraced by the medical community to treat cancer despite its proven track record both clinically and anecdotally.

“The reason why the ketogenic diet is not being prescribed to treat cancer is purely economical,” said Dr. Seyfried, author of Cancer as a Metabolic Disease. “Cancer is big business. There are more people making a living off cancer than there are dying of it.”

Nobody is stating that Dr. Seyfried is all wrong when it comes to his researches, but that doesn’t mean he is also right. He holds on to his belief that cancer is a metabolic disease, thinking that everyone else thinks cancer is a genetic disease. He even stated, “The current view now, without any question, is that cancer is a genetic disease. If you go to the National Cancer Institute website or you read any of the major articles published in Nature and Science, often the articles will start with, “Cancer is a genetic disease.” I think that this has become dogma.”

It is true that cancer metabolism is a very important topic in cancer researchers, but that doesn’t exclude the fact that the primary driver of most cancers is genetic.

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Ketogenic Diet

The idea behind this diet is simple. It is known that glucose is the primary fuel for cancer, so because of that, we should lower carbohydrate intake and use something else instead carbohydrates, such as fats, so our body’s metabolism will be pushed into ketosis. This treatment is actually great for intractable epileptic seizures in children. It has all the potential, even though the mechanism of action in preventing seizures in pretty unclear.

One study, conducted on mice and a mouse histiocytoma cell line resembling human glioblastoma multiforme with macrophage/microglial properties derived from that same mouse strain (VM-M3) was implanted subcutaneously. This line came metastasis very fast when it is implanted under the skin and when it can grow. That doesn’t make it like a brain tumor because it is kept inside of closed space of the skull. The result of the study showed that ketogenic diet actually increased the mean survival time by over 56 percent, and the combo of this diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy increased the suvival time by 78%. These results gave hope, but the problem is that the models of the tumor weren’t human, but it is worth investigating further.

So, Dr. Seyfried showed mice studies as a ketogenic diet solution to cancer, even though it should be called as preliminary data. It needs more clinical studies to be proven right.

Clinical Evidence

Even though Dr. Seyfried shows some clinical evidence, they are not so convincing. He first presents the study performed in 1995 with two girls who had inoperable astrocytomas and who were placed on a ketogenic diet just to “determine if a ketogenic state would decrease glucose availability to certain tumors, thereby potentially impairing tumor metabolism without adversely affecting the patient’s overall nutritional status.” The abstract showed next:

“Within 7 days of initiating the ketogenic diet, blood glucose levels declined to low-normal levels and blood ketones were elevated twenty to thirty fold. Results of PET scans indicated a 21.8% average decrease in glucose uptake at the tumor site in both subjects. One patient exhibited significant clinical improvements in mood and new skill development during the study. She continued the ketogenic diet for an additional twelve months, remaining free of disease progression.”

There few more studies, some of them didn’t demonstrate any clinical improvement, and the others did. It is assumed that those studies are nothing but randomized clinical trials. For example, one study of 53 patients showed that this diet was safe, but it had no effect on tumors.

The ketogenic diet wasn’t made for cancer treatment, even if it used with conventional therapy. There are some trials that are happening and the others that happen, and that is an excellent thing. Calorie-restricted, Ketogenic Diet and Transient Fasting During Reirradiation for Patients With Recurrent Glioblastoma (ERGO2), Pilot Study of a Metabolic Nutritional Therapy for the Management of Primary Brain Tumors (Ketones), Ketogenic Diet as Adjunctive Treatment in Refractory/End-stage Glioblastoma Multiforme: a Pilot Study, and Ketogenic Diet With Radiation and Chemotherapy for Newly Diagnosed Glioblastoma, only show that clinical trial data should come out very soon.

But, is cancer metabolic or genetic disease? Well, it is both. Cancer is really complicated disease, and it has lots of factors and lots of things that affect it. And if ketogenic diet is helpful in some patients, it isn’t with others. And that is the truth.

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